Category Archives: Central America

Hello and Welcome to Phillys Big Trip Alaska to Chile or is that Argentina

  

I have been back in the Netherlands for a couple of years now and I have slowly being going through and editing the thousands of photos I took on Phillys Big Trip and mini adventure where I rode my motorcycle 67,000km across the Americas Continents.

Starting in Halifax Nova Scotia Canada in June 2012 and ending in Buenos Aire Argentina May 2013.

I have finally edited all my photos relating to this trip which is the good news the downside however is that as I have edited every photo all the sizes and dimensions  of these Photos post editing were no longer correct that were linked to this blog so I had to go through this whole blog and update to the new dimensions which was a huge job :-). Whilst I was doing this I have added many more photos to the blog and I have also changed the sequence so that you can now read this blog as a diary starting at from the beginning rather than in a blog sequences which starts at the end.

I have also updated the Maps Stats and Cost Info and Accommodations and Distance Pages so plenty of new content for those of you that are interested.

And as I promised about 3 years ago I also will complete this story so before the end of this year I will also update the final couple of days of my trip on getting Daisy back from South America so watch this space

                                                                  

 

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Brownsville to Ciudad Victoria, Thursday, 25 October 2012, Day 114

Petrol availability problems in Mexico

Well I made it and I am now in Mexico 🙂 Country number 3 come forward and take a bow. Up at a reasonable time last breakfast at Subway for a while then on to the border.

US side I had to go across to the other side or to the arrivals side as no one at departures side to take my exit papers so I did an illegal U turn and rode down a one way road the wrong way to do this (I was only following the officers instructions :-)) you really do not want to stand out when crossing borders but I had no alternative.

So US side sorted so goodbye USA it was fun but moving south now but I will be back 🙂

Across the toll bridge into Mexico pointed straight to the vehicles to declare line and the admin process began.

First I needed to get me officially into the country no problem as no queue it looks like I am only person coming in today!

Then to Banjercito to start on the process for the bike I was told I needed to get copies of passport, bike papers, insurance, driving licence etc. I told him I had them already as I am organised me. I was missing copy of my Visa, which I had only got 5 minutes ago so I was sent to a grumpy man who’s job it was to do the copying and he was pissed off as I done most of his job already. So back to the window, huge confusion on the bike papers what was the expiry date of the registration? On Dutch registration there is no expiry date but this chap was used to Canadian and US papers not an English man with Dutch Bike all of this done in Spanish as the chap did not speak any English and at the moment my Spanish is very weak. All through the process he kept asking me about the expiry date of the registration papers hoping that eventually I would tell him a date and all would be well in his world but nope señor there is no expiry date. After a while I was handed over to customs but no one there so this took a while and when they turned up they where not that interested but he got them to ask me about the expiry date for the registrations papers. So as I had no drugs and guns on the bike it was back to the guy to complete the importation of the bike. He decides that he wants to see the bike and checks the VIN number and now wants a copy of the insurance papers not the Mexican one but the US ones strange request but I give it to him anyhow I guess he still looking for an expiry date for the registrations paper. I am still the only one at the border so I guess it is a slow day for them so I think it takes longer than normal.  I am all done I have got a temporary import licence for the bike I will have to pay about 400USD if I do not take the bike out of the country within the month or 30 days. I thought I had 6 months but on checking my visa I had been given a transit visa as I told them I was going to Guatemala not a tourist visa fortunately for me I am whizzing across Mexico so I do not need longer but must remember this if I coming back and if I want to stay longer on Mexico. The import of the bike is based on your personal visa.

So I pay the man one fee for the import and another fee for the visa and back to immigration to prove I had paid and I was officially in Mexico and the next customer had just turned up. This had taken about more than an hour or more but I was through.

Useful page on this http://www.mexinsider.com/vehicle-permits.html

The plan is to head south as far as I can until I am knackered away from the so called bandit/drug cartel area so the first thing I did was take a wrong turn and then I ran over something that made the bike judder it felt like the chain had come loose and the ABS went into a flid mode. I think I was just being hyper sensitive and before you knew it was on the right road heading south. Hot and boring scenery wise but being in new country made it more interesting. Roads are rough and speed bumps are all over the place even on major roads that keep you on your toes.

My next problem was petrol and getting some local currency after driving for about a 100km I decide to find a cash point in a town. Huge queue but at least I was safe as the place was crawling with the army with 2 vans with machine guns pointing at the cashpoint so no chance of being mugged unless it was the army doing the mugging. A serious amount of armed police and soldiers all over the place and lots of checkpoints along the way, so I guess there are some residual issues in the area. After queuing with a machine gun pointing at me the machine will not accept my card and it was either 100km to the next larger town with bank (according to my GPS) or back to the border. Onward and forward goes my old battle cry hopefully the fuel stations will accept Credit Cards and there seems to be a lot of Pemex petrol stations around. The first one I stop at no credit cards so on to the next one. This one is full of police in vans about 20 of them I am not sure why. There’s no petrol or is that there is no one there to sell you petrol. I tried to find out what was going from the Army folks but with my limited Spanish it was proving difficult No petrol for the next 80km how about back where I just come from was there any there no petrol there either or was it just that they would not except credit cards. What to do I am not sure if I could do 80km on what I had left in the tank. Chatting with one of the army guys who spoke a little English when another local joined us and he said I could buy petrol 300 meters down the road! So I was given instruction on how to find the petrol again with hand signals and bad language skills all round. Seemingly some bloke was selling petrol out of jerry cans on the side of the road and I managed to buy 5 litres for 5 USD so this should get us to the next available fuel station. They had a great little contraption for getting the petrol from jerry can to fuel tank.

Deserted Petrol Station!

I past a couple more petrol station that where deserted and I have no idea why and eventually I found one selling fuel and after another palaver I managed to get this on my credit card. I was sent to a window which you could not see though as it was tinted and mirrored all I saw was a hand wiggling to show they wanted my card so I handed it over and I thought that was the last time I will see that. It turned out there was a nice lady behind the window and I was invited in to finish the transaction. (Paying for the petrol you perves! I know what you are thinking :-))

So it had been a long day so next find a cashpoint hotel and dinner in that order and that is what happened I decided to call it quits at a place Ciudad Victoria and stayed at the first place that came up on my GPS as it was reasonably priced and the bike was safe. Took me a while to find somewhere to eat I managed to get a ham and cheese torta but very little else available it seemed in this town.

Cuidad Victoria

What a very strange and interesting day I hope things settle down and fuel and army checkpoints do not become too troublesome. I have been travelling across flat and boring landscape for days now but the good news today is there where mountains on the horizon and I am now in the foothills so that means tomorrow twisty roads and cooler weather as I head into the hills I do care if it is in the right direction I going into the mountains 🙂

 

Ciudad Victoria to Ciudad Valles, Friday, 26 October 2012, Day 115

Got lost and ended on this dirt track that went on forever

True to my word I headed into the mountains in the direction of San Luis Potosi as this took me away from the coastal plains and into the mountains. I am not going south but the roads are more interesting and it is cooler the higher you get. A lovely ride checking all of the Petrol Stations that I pass and they all seem to be open for business and selling petrol weird I wonder why I could not get any petrol yesterday in the couple of places I tried need to keep an eye on this perhaps it was only a local issue and I am well passed it now. I fill up in a place called Tula then a change of direction to a town called Ciudad Valles which is South as I am trying to get past Mexico City on the West and I trying to do I straight line down to Guatemala where I plan to do some Spanish lessons as I think I am missing out on loads in not being able to speak the local lingo does anyone know or can anyone recommend any language schools in the Antigua area?

Heading into the hills!

Tootling along enjoying the ride in the country and the cooler weather when Mr GPS says turn right! No road only a dirt track. I decide to ignore this and hit the detour button and keep going on the tarmac road that I am on. 5 km later it is directing me onto a dirt track again so I check GPS to see if I have dirt track option disabled. Yes I do so what to do? do I have another fight with the GPS or just see where it will take me and hope its only a short bit off road.

I am in the middle of nowhere completely on my own some I have being riding the dirt track for a while and I am hoping it will turn back into Tarmac soon I could turn back but I have gone to far to consider this the track is doable but it does gets tricky in places so I am crawling along making very little progress as we all know my off road skills are non existent at the best of times and I had been riding for a while so I was already tired. I am regretting turning of the Tarmac and I really need to revisit my onward and forward motto as it seems to be getting me into a lot of trouble lately. I find a gorgeous stream so I stop for while to catch my breath and to build up my courage for what I hope is the final push towards tarmac and the civilised world I have seen nobody for what seems like ages.

Lost but who cares when its like this

Finally after about 15km I hit the Tarmac again and the easiest run into Ciudad Valles. I turn into the road for the Centro and see a nice Hotel Pine (Pineapple), which has a secure car park at the back and is cheap as chips and also has a reasonable decent restaurant attached to it so this is going to be my home for tonight.

It has been a good day in the saddle and I had some fun trying to feed myself first for breakfast at a roadside café chatting in pigeon Spanish with the 3 nice ladies working there I managed to order 3 quesadilla as I know what they are and also tried a gator with chorizo salsa which was also nice and for my dinner I managed to get a bifstek Mexican which was a nice stew so I am well fed today.

View from Hotel

I went for a wander around town then to my room to work on this and it is still not up to date! And I just realised its Friday night!

Ciudad Valles to Molango, Saturday, 27 October 2012, Day 116

view from my hotel window stopped raining for a couple of minutes.

What a difference a day makes yesterday it was excellent even my off road excursion in hindsight was enjoyable but today was totally different. It has taken me 6 and half hours to cover 210km non-stop riding only had one 10 minute break for a petrol and a pee stop. So what was different well for starters it was raining when I got up not heavy but enough to need waterproofs. So I had a leisurely breakfast and finally I hit the road at 11am destination was Pachuca, which was 380km away according to the GPS, I would be there at 5pm so this is doable. In reality it started to rain harder so the roads where like an ice-skating ring covered in mud that had turned to slush the roads are okay when dry but add water and they are treacherous. So I am not getting anywhere fast and the road I have chosen to take is quite twisty and hilly so I am not sure how hard I can push it in the corners as they are all as greasy as hell. Another obstacle impeding my progress is that the road went via loads of villages and in every one of them there are loads of speed bumps. Not just ordinary speed bumps but bumps of all sizes and shapes not one is the same some huge and all of them had to be taken in 1st gear due to the fact that the car or lorry in front of you had always slowed down to a near stop and because of the weather conditions and the fact that they where all over the place there most be hundreds I have had to slow down for today. Very irritating and uncomfortable not sure I like them (I am pretty damned sure I do not like them). To add to this I headed up into the mountains I was riding in the clouds for the last couple of hours so visibility down to nothing in places on wiggly greasy unknowns roads with random speed bumps thrown in for good measure. This was all just about manageable but then add in other Mexican road users such as humans and animals  (Dogs, Cows, Goats, Pigs wandering all over the road) I was frazzled at 5pm about 130km short of my target so I pulled over in a place called Molango I found a nice hotel and got out of my wet gear. Its cold it has been 18 degrees all day, which was nice but feels cooler when you are wet no a/c or fan in the room tonight but do not think I will need it as unlike last night it was 30 degrees I think its going to be about 14 degrees tonight so I may need a blanket.

I grabbed some food in a place next to the hotel which actually looked like somebody’s front room with a couple of tables and a stove for cooking. I had chicken and enchiladas and as they where cooking a huge bowl of rice for some reason and they offered me some, which was also very nice, the chicken however had seen better days.

I went for a wander around town cold and wet and still drizzling so I head back to the room. I am wearing a jumper for the first time in ages I hope its at least dry tomorrow as I think the route I did today was actually quite nice but unfortunately I could not see a thing due to the weather.

Molango

Going to have to have a rethink if it stays like this, as I am not sure I can cope with to many days like today as it is far to stressful.

Halloween

Molango to Apizaco, Sunday, 28 October 2012, Day 117

Road block who would have guessed it was for a Religious run carrying the Madonna with my bad spanish I was certainly surprised 🙂

I woke up and fortunately it was dry today but it was still quite cold. I hit the road and it was still very misty or I was driving in the clouds but fortunately it started to clear and I could finally see where I was going and it was nice.

Crap Vision-ability

Plan on the page is to keep plugging away moving south to Antigua where I plan to have a rest and do some Spanish lessons as I have not got a clue what is going on around me and I am not at all comfortable with that. Today the road was blocked and I was trying to found out what was going on but my knowledge of Spanish is woeful so all I could do was wait. It turned out that it was some religious event the road was full of young people running down the street and a convoy of accompanying cars and lorries and they where carrying a statue of Mary I passed another one later. I am not sure I would have been able to understand the explanation for this holdup in English never mind in Spanish but it does explain why the petrol pump attendant when I asked about what was going on he crossed himself so there was the religious clue unfortunately at the time I had no idea what he was trying to tell me.

Good day in the saddle but I am not covering the ground as quickly as I think I should be I did more than yesterday but considering the hours I am putting in I am expecting to have gone much further. Slow going on these roads and village very rarely going fast at all. I think I gained an hour but I am not sure as have seen no clocks to verify this so at about 5pm ish according to the clock on my GPS which I think is right my right leg was beginning to cramp up no idea why could be all them damned speed humps or all the stop start riding I have been doing today so this was a sign to call it quits for the day as well as my GPS sending me on another off road excursion and getting chased by wild dogs was enough to tell me to stop for the day. So I ignored the GPS I did a U-turn only to be chased by the same wild dogs and decided to stop at the first decent place I saw. A couple of minutes later saw a nice old church and opposite a small hotel which had a courtyard for parking the bike so I pulled in there. Got a room no problem and extremely cheap but no Wi-Fi but who cares I can live with a night without Wi-Fi. I was in little village just short of Apicazo so not much there other than the church and the hotel so nowhere to eat. After wandering about for a while found a place that was cooking chickens on a rotisserie so ordered half a chicken and some papa’s fritas and got some pop and then back to the room to eat my little greasy feast. I had mushroom quesadilla for breakfast/lunch, which was also very nice.

Tonight’s entertainment was to finish the Hunger games on my Kindle. I quite enjoyed it easy reading and a page-turner but quite a simple plotI have  just downloaded part 2 and 3 so another excuse not to be doing my blog or responding to the comments on it. I will do this when I am back on line honest injun

Apizaco to Oaxaca, Monday, 29 October 2012, Day 118

Beautiful Dress made out of plastic cups and saucers !

Even scarier from the front

A good day in the saddle and I covered a lot more distance than I have been in the last couple of days so how did I do this well I cheated.

I got packed up and hit the road and the first thing I noticed in the distance was a couple of mountains but what surprised me most was that they both had snow on top of them! This was the last thing I was expecting I was not aware of Snow covered mountains in Mexico so I was a little confused for a while.

I needed a coffee and some breakfast, as it was quite chilly around 14 degrees and as soon as I drove into Apizaco I saw an OXXO which is sort of like the Mexican 7/11 so I had breakfast sitting on the pavement outside as they do good coffee and sandwiches but they do not always have somewhere to sit and consume your purchases.

View from my breakfast spot

So todays plan was to try and reach Oaxaca, which was going to be difficult if I was sticking to the type of roads, I have been using for the last couple of days with all the tope and reductions (Spanish words for them bloody speed bumps they have all over the place here killing my suspension slowly but surely me thinks and god knows what this is doing to the rest of the bike it cannot be good me thinks). So first thing I did was change the settings on my GPS to allow toll routes to be part of the route as I usually avoid these if possible but a change of tactic is called for if I am going to make any progress. By doing this I shortened the distance to Oaxaca by 40km, which is excellent, and the last 200km was on a Mexican toll road, which went through some breath taking scenery and no villages to slow me down for and no speed humps either so I could get some speed up and sustain it for a reasonable amount of time.

escaping the speed humps!

The downside was that I had to pay for the speed so as I joined the toll road they charged me 35 peso which I thought was excellent value as it was 200km still to go to Oaxaca but after about 30km another toll booth this time 25 peso and this kept happening regularly and later the distance got shorter but the price kept getting more. All in all buying this extra time cost me 190 pesos so about 10 EUR but well worth it as it was a really enjoyable run on empty roads with not having to worry about all the usual distractions and potential risks that you have driving through Mexican villages and countryside I could just enjoy the ride and the spectacular scenery. I had a laugh at each of the toll booths when they kept wanting more money for the next bit in broken Spanish I was telling them that I should be half price as they where charging me the same as a car as there was no motorcycle rates and also telling them I had already paid at the last booth. It kept me entertained for a while and some of them where also amused.

I have been to Oaxaca before about 15 years ago but I did not recognise the place it seem so much bigger and busier and the GPS was sending me in the opposite directions to what the signpost where telling me and so like a fool I followed the GPS but when it turned me down yet another dirt road I switched it of and asked the locals which was far more effective. I finally found the center but it was the middle of rush hour getting hot and I had no Mexican money left as used the last on the toll roads and credit cards are not used as much here especially in the places I have been staying cash is king. So after checking out one hotel to get a feel of the prices in town I plugged in ATM into my GPS and the first one I found again would not accept my card and the next one was on the main square but there was a huge festival going on there and the cops where not allowing any vehicles in but I showed one them on my GPS what I was looking for and I was allowed onto the square with my bike and they even watched my bike while I popped round the corner to the cashpoint. There suggestion not mine this was while they where trying to manage a full-blown crowd of revellers not sure what is going on as there where Incas dancers, Trade unionists, and Halloween or Night of the death festival all going on at the same time. This time the cashpoint gave me some money so back to the bike, which was parked on a one-way street and the only correct way out was across the square so the friendly coppers cleared a route for me through the revellers and I was on my way 🙂

I went a couple of blocks from the square and saw a Hostel with a drive in parking garage so pulled in there glad to be out of the traffic and checked out how much they wanted for a room for the night it was reasonable enough and the bike was in a secure manned car park so sorted.

So got out of my bike gear and went of to rediscover Oaxaca some of seemed familiar but I could not find the place I had stayed last time, as I was curious on what it would be like now.

I had a great evening just wandering around as mentioned in the main square was teaming with people and there was stage with what I thought was for either Halloween of night of the dead festival some great outfits on show. As well as that a political rally was taking place and something else with mariachi bands making a hell of a racket so great place to people watch. The rest of town was lively as well great market so I did some wandering taking in the sights. I still do not know what time it is I think I have gained an hour maybe the clocks changed on Sunday I do not know but it does not really matter as knowing what time it is is not a necessity that I have at the moment 🙂

I ended up back at the hotel where I downloaded the sequels to the Hunger Game very clever pricing scam they got going there. The first book is 5 bucks for kindle but books 2 and 3 are 9 bucks so they getting you hooked cheaply the 1st time round and you have to pay more once you are addicted very clever.

I am having problems uploading my Photos to Smug mug it is very rare that you get anywhere with a decent Internet connection or maybe I am just asking too much.

Oaxaca to Santo Domingo Zanatepec, Tuesday, 30 October 2012, Day 119

What are you looking at!

I was feeling a bit down this morning I am not sure why it could be that I have not spoken to anyone since I left Houston other than transactional conversations and since I have been in Mexico conversations are even more limited. Or it could be alcohol withdrawals, as I have not had a drink for 8 whole days!

Feeling a bit lonely which is unusual for me so I need to come up with a solution for this and fast I have a couple of ideas in the pipeline.

Today went a long way in putting me in a better mood a glorious day in the saddle. I had a chat with the car park attendant who spoke some English which was pleasant and just telling him what I am up to lifts my spirits as when you put it into perspective this is an opportunity of a lifetime what I am doing but I am only human and even a trip like this can get to daunting for me when I think how far I still have to go.

Suck it up you ponce!

Got lost leaving Oaxaca the road I wanted was full of riot police and camera crews so I decided did not want to get entangled in that. I finally cleared the town got some petrol and some breakfast and hit the road. For the next 200km it was bend after bend corner after corner twist and turn after twist and turn. I think you get the idea biking heaven little to none other traffic except the odd lorry to past which were treated as mobile chicanes. It can be difficult to pass other traffic as there are very few straights and I do not have the ability to see round blind corners so you can be stuck behind them for while. Mostly they work with you to get you past but sometimes that is not always possible. So this is were those god-awful speed humps come into their own as the slower moving vehicles come to a practical stop at these and I can be over the bumps a lot quicker as I can slow down quicker and accelerate quicker so many an overtake done today whilst bouncing over speed bumps.

Nice Roads

Not to hot weather dull and overcast which was nice and the villages further apart so less speed bumps. So a good day to lift my spirits the road not perfect as this is still Mexico so all sorts wildlife and domestic life wondering over the roads and rough has hell in places to keep you on your toes. After the mountains hit a flat bit nearer the coast and it was every so windy and looks like it is always windy there as there where thousands of windmills as far as the eye could see. Not many of them where turning probably out of the safety window for them so out of the spec for running them makes you wonder how practical these thing really are. (Do not get me wrong I am a big fan of alternate energies but sometimes I do wonder how efficient the options chosen really are)

It was getting hot now I was out of the hills but still dull and looked like rain but in fact it was just getting dark. I had forgotten how far south I am and it gets dark at 5.45pm on the dot and I am not used to that so need to find somewhere to stay quick before it get dark. Problem is I am in the middle of nowhere no big towns or obvious places to stay and the next town I was aware of is about 50km away and it would be pitch black by then and I do not fancy riding on these roads in the dark. Fortunately I saw a sign for a Hotel pulled over just as it was getting dark. In the middle of nowhere but a reasonable price so I was setting up camp there for the night.

Allegedly it had a restaurant as well but this was deserted I think I am the only person staying here. So ask for the menu they do have one but they do have chicken. I am sick of chicken as it all you can seem to get here. They said they have some meat but they did not seem that keen on it so I asked to see what they had got as the conversation was bad due to my lack of Spanish. So I was shown into the kitchen, which was probably not the wisest thing to do, as ignorance often is bliss. The meat looked disgusting, as did the chicken. They had some prawns but god knows how old these where and I did not fancy risking them. I spotted some eggs and some rice so asked for 2 fried eggs and rice with soft tacos and a coke. So that was dinner sorted and I do like a fried egg every now and again.

Not much else to do, as this was a Hotel in the middle of nowhere on the side of a busy road so I retired to my room for the usual upload photos update blog do some planning for the next day and read me book and before you know it is bedtime.

A couple of days ago I was sitting having a coffee at a petrol station when a car pulled up and this very young lad gets out and goes across to my bike to have a look and then he strokes it which I thought was great I have never seen anyone stroking a bike before but I think she deserves it as she doing a great job. I often find myself patting her on the tank and thanking her for a great day and today was one of those so a pat and a stroke for me bike today it was good bike day 🙂